Austin Lee Edwards, 28, was killed in a shootout with police after police believe he killed the grandparents and daughter of a teen he met in a “catfish” incident. Photo courtesy of San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department
Nov. 28 (UPI) — San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies killed a former Virginia state law enforcement officer in what is believed to be a “catfish” incident that left the grandparents and mother of a teenage girl the officer met dead.
County authorities said they killed Austin Lee Edward, 28, in a shootout on Sunday after finding three dead bodies in Riverside, Calif., while investigating a house fire. Edwards was with a teen, who was the daughter and granddaughter of the victims. She was unharmed in the incident.
Authorities said the girl and Edwards met online where Edwards misled her about his identity, commonly known as “catfishing.”
Officers were called to the Riverside residence where she lived with her mother and grandparents on a welfare check after a caller said she appeared distressed while getting into a vehicle.
Authorities arrived at the home, where a fire was burning at the time. At the home, authorities found the deceased bodies of Mark Winek, 69, his wife Sharie Winek, 65, and their daughter Brooke Winek, 38.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies located the vehicle Edwards and the teen occupied in an unincorporated area, where Edwards and the officers exchanged gunfire. Authorities said Edwards was struck by at least one of the officers.
The case remained under investigation Monday. Detectives said Edwards had worked for the Virginia State Police until recently employed at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in the state of Virginia.
“Our hearts go out to the Winek family and their loved ones during this time of tremendous grief, as this is a tragedy for all Riversiders,” Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said in a statement.
“This is yet another horrific reminder of the predators existing online who prey on our children. If you’ve already had a conversation with your kids on how to be safe online and on social media, have it again. If not, start it now to better protect them.”